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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Friday (3/4/11) 10:38am - ... wherein Peter is growing very sleepy.  Okay, more sleepy than *usual*.

So last night I went to the Hideout's "Improv, Hypnosis and Trance Workshop".

To backtrack a bit:  I suppose it was less a workshop and more a hypnotist-show.  The hypnotist (Eric Walden) started with a few words about hypnosis, dispelling some common misconceptions about it, and selling getting hypnotized as a good thing.  He tried a few simple induction exercises, and then asked those of us who wanted to, to come onstage for further hypnosis.  After further exercises, he started the more entertaining suggestions:  "It's now 112° in here!"  As this went on, he winnowed down the on-stage people to the most hypnotized among us.  Finally, he had the hypnotized folks do some improv with a few audience volunteers.

As it turned out, I was one of the hypnotees.  I volunteered to come onstage, and never got winnowed out.

It's hard for me to say to what extent I was really hypnotized.  I think there were some legitimate effects.  I did sweat a bit when I was told it was 112°.  When he threw a 'sleep ball' at my head, my head recoiled a bit at its 'impact'.  At the same time, I couldn't *see* the 'sleep ball' (or any of the things he suggested), and I certainly didn't react to "It's now 150°!" with anything like a commensurate response.  When I was told to clasp my hands, then told I was physically unable separate them, then told to try to separate them, they flew right apart.

That said, I really tried my best to go along with the hypnotist's commands.  When I was told to pretend I was in a heavy-metal band, playing a guitar using only my ass, well, that's what I did.  Then again, that's what I would do in *any* improv show.  When the hypnotist told me to dance with him, I danced with him.  Then again, that's what I do when *any* guy asks me to dance.  I suspect if I were a lot more inhibited onstage, I would have a much better bead on how much of this was hypnosis and how much was just me being myself.

A couple of guys left the stage of their own accord because they didn't feel hypnotized.  When Justin left the stage ("I'm just not hypnotized, man."), I thought to myself, "Yeah, I should probably go, too."  A moment later, I thought, "Then again, I have a really cute girl asleep on my shoulder right now."  A moment after that, I thought, "Um... maybe I'll just ride this out and see what happens."  And also, I badly *wanted* to get hypnotized.  My brain is generally a pretty dull place to be (I can't count the number of nights I have dreams where essentially nothing happens), and I was certainly up for something trippy and strange.

So I kept trying my best to relax, and trying my best to comply with stuff.  I was given the suggestion to fall asleep whenever I thought about sex.  I think there were two moments in the show that were overtly sexual, and I obligingly settled down, relaxed, and closed my eyes.  (Somehow, the western scene with its shouted line, "I WANT TO FUCK YOU!" flew by me completely.)[1]  I was told at one point to fall madly in love with the hypnotist, and I tried my sadly-tepid best to simulate that.[2]  I was told that I was an aggressive, assertive improvisor who wanted to be in absolutely every scene, but... yeah.  I was no more assertive than I would have been in, say, a Lottery show.[3]  I was given the post-hypnotic suggestion that if anybody shook my hand before I left the theater, I would have an intense, three-second orgasm -- but nobody ever shook my hand.[4]

I kept trying and trying, but I felt like a sham the whole time.  I was probably taking up a spot that a more-hypnotized participant deserved.

In any case, whether I was properly hypnotized or just really relaxed, I think it helped me do some stronger character work than usual in the scenework that followed.[5]  I think I did an okay job of taking care of the newer improvisors.

So that was the hypnosis workshop.  I tried my best, but my brain is very good at being very boring.

ETA:  photos here.

[1] Oddly, my sudden sleep attack while dancing with the hypnotist was not from thinking about sex[1b], but rather from the hypnotist whispering "Sleep! Now!" into my ear during the dance.  The fact that I relaxed so narcoleptically is perhaps a sign that I was somewhat hypnotized.

[1b] In my experience, when I'm having a good dance (even a very sexy dance) with somebody I'm into romantically, I'm usually not 'thinking about sex' -- in the same way that when I'm having sex with somebody, I'm not really thinking about dancing with them -- both cases are more about enjoying the moment than imagining you're somewhere else.  Then again, I suppose other dancers' mileage may vary.

[2] ... though frankly, sometimes I wonder if I can fall in love at all.  *le sigh*

[3] Original completion of that sentence:  "I did not bust out a Jordan T. Maxwell impression.  (HEY-oh!)"

[4] Regarding that:  DAMN YOU ALL, workshop attendees.[4b]

[4b] Then again, that might have been a bit messy.

[5] Side note:  I've noticed that these days, whenever I'm in a serious scene and a performer says something jokey, I usually just bust out laughing.  To me, it feels like the honest character choice -- that's how the character would respond to a really funny joke -- especially because the jokes often come in moments of tension.  To the audience, it probably looks like corpsing.  I guess I'll keep exploring this.

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